|ESTABLISHING LONG-TERM PROTECTION OF CREX CREX IN SLOVENIA - PROJECT RESULTS|
In Slovene, the common name for Corncrake (kosec) is the same as the word denoting a person who mowes (kosec = mower). Throughout the project, Corncrake has become a symbol of the thousand-year harmony of man and nature. Based on this fact, the primary objective of the project was to promote Corncrake as the symbol of future harmony between rapid development and perservation od high level of biodiversity in Natura 2000 sites in Slovenia, which are important forconservation of low-input wet meadows.
The primary tool for achieving the project objective and establishing long-term protection of Corncrake in Slovenia was preparation of the first national Species Plan for Corncrake2005 – 2015. The document summarizes all the acquired kowledge and findings obtained during the life of the project.
The key to successful implementation of the project was newly acquired specialist knowledge, which was enriched with field experience on direct management of low-input wet meadows in three project areas, obtained in cooperation with the local farmers.
Acquisition of farmland through purchase or lease was an effective conservation tool for ensuring long-term protection of Crex crex. In the Municipality of Cerknica, the Notranjsko Regional Park executed a trial purchase of land for nature conservation purposes. Positive and efficient communication on all levels promoted the core message of the project and contributed to better recognizability of Crex crex and its habitats in Natura 2000 sites.
A. Scientific basis and technical documentation regarding the Nature Reserve on Ljubljansko Barje
- Elaboration of the National Crex crex Action Plan 2005 – 2015
- Development of management guidelines for the qualifying species in three Natura 2000 project areas
- Integration of scientific bases into the Operational Management Plan for Natura 2000 sites in Slovenia and into the Management Plan of Ljubljansko Barje Landscape Park (under formation)
- Execution of ecological research into relevant plant and animal species in the Iški Morost Nature Reserve in the area of Ljubljansko Barje.
- Elaboration of the Management Plan for Iški Morost Nature Reserve on Ljubljansko Barje including all the technical documentation needed to build visitor infrastructure.
B. Acquisition of farmland for management
- On Ljubljansko Barje, in the area of the Iški Morost Nature Reserve, DOPPS – BirdLife Slovenia acquired a total of 51.9 ha of agricultural area (44.2 ha leased and 7.7 ha purchased).
- In Lake Cerknica, the Municipality of Cerknica – Notranjsko Regional Park managed to purchase a total of 133.3 ha in the central area of low-input wet meadows.
- In the Nanoščica Basin a contract was signed for the years 2005 and 2006 concerning management for protection of 25.0 ha of highest quality wet meadows.
- For all land purchased within the scope of the project, contracts were signed specifing permanent use of the land for nature conservation goals.
- A concept of the nature reserve with a nature trail and an observatory in the Nanoščica Basin project area was introduced.
C. Active management of Crex crex meadows in project areas
- On Ljubljansko Barje, 8.0 ha of meadows were reclaimed from overgrown land; observations were carried out and attempts were made to take up several other measures for fast renaturation of these meadows.
- In 2006, 80 ha of wet meadows in the area of Lake Cerknica were mowed.
- A trial mowing was carried out, and various mowing techniques were compared.
- Active land management was conducted in line with management guidelines applicable to project areas.
- In the area of the Iški Morost Nature Reserve, an observatory (with a surface area of 35 m2) was built of natural materials only. The observatory is located at one end of the "Corncrake Nature Trail", and an unsurfaced footpath measuring a total of 1,300 metres was arranged in the wide area of the reserve. Information, orientation and interpretation boards were erected in the area of the reserve.
D. Purchase and maintenance of own agricultural mechanization for meadow management
In the scope of the project, all the needed agricultural mechanization for managing wet meadows in project areas was purchased, utilized and properly maintained, with most of the activities carried out in the Iški Morost Nature Reserve.
E. Information, education and promotion of the project
- Promotion of national- and local-level policies in favour of Crex crex and support to maximum protection to be implemented in key areas
- Formation of a new agri-environmental measure – conservation of bird habitats of wet extensive meadows in Natura 2000 sites – in the framework of the Rural Development Programme for Slovenia 2007 – 2013.
- Preparation of the scientific basis for determination and monitoring of Slovenia's Farmland Bird Index.
- Incorporation of the Iški Morost Nature Reserve into the spatial plan of the Municipality of Ig and preparation of a draft municipal ordinance on protecting the area in accordance with the national legislation.
- Creation of an integral development project in the framework of Rural Development Programme for Ljubljansko Barje in the municipalities of Vrhnika and Brezovica.
- Follow-up of project actions in the area of Cerkniško jezero as part of the LIFE project LIFE06NAT/SLO/000069 "Intermittent Cerknica Lake"
- Lectures and training for farmers, organised in cooperation with the Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry of Slovenia as part of lectures for farmers organized within Slovenia's agri-environmental scheme and an increase in the number of beneficiaries of the measure “Conservation of special grassland habitats”
- Joint promotion of management guidelines for bird species of wet grasslands and organic farming in Natura 2000 sites, undertaken in cooperation with the Association of Organic Farmers of Slovenia in the framework of the Coalition for Sustainable Development
- Counselling, training and information for farmers, land owners, agricultural advisors and representatives of local communities in project areas
- Project and species promotion on the national level including 17 lectures, 7 expert excursions to Crex crex sites, 26 publications in national media and 25 publications in the Svet ptic jounal (World of Birds)
- Project and species promotion on the local level involving 9 lectures, 4 night excursions aimed at learning about the species, 25 lectures and 5 science days for primary school children held in project areas, 5 lectures accompanying the publication of a Crex crex colouring book and 22 event announcements in the Svet ptic jounal (World of Birds)
- In cooperation with the project partner Municipality of Ljubljana, three professional workshops were organised on the following topics: rural development (Ljubljana, 2004), nature reserve management in foreign countries (Italy, 2005) and interpretation of nature conservation resources (Ljubljansko Barje, 2006).
- Promotional and educational publications (colouring book "Corncrake and Friends", information poster for farmers "Meadows, Mowing, and Corncrake", guide to the Crex crex education trail and a brochure "Crex crex – Guardian of Wet Meadows"
- Launch of project website www.life-kosec.org
- setting-up of six information boards at three project sites upon the beginning of the project
F. Project coordination and the national Crex crex survey
Project actions were carried out by the expert team of DOPPS - BirdLife Slovenia in cooperation with both project partners. During the project, a national Crex crex survey was conducted with an aim to develop a network of field surveyors who will provide regular, quality and full coverage of Slovenia's most important Crex crex sites, to ensure annual Crex crex counts at eight most important species' breeding areas, and to carry out in 5-year intervals a national survey which will cover not only the most important Crex crex sites but also all potential Crex crex breeding areas in Slovenia.
In 2004 – 2006 counts, the number of signing males counted in most important Crex crex sites in Slovenia was lower than in the surveys conducted in the 1990s and in 2002. Although population count figures are partly incomplete, we can say with great certainty that the decline in Crex crex numbers in Slovenia continued after 2002. In the period 2004 – 2006 Crex Crex population declined noticeably against the 1990s data, which had a marked effect on the negative bird population trends in the country. The population minimum of 2004 was followed by a slight increase in Crex crex numbers recorded in 2005 and 2006 in the Ljubljansko Barje area, but the rise was not sufficient to indicate population recovery. In the last two project years, Crex crex numbers have stayed 30-50% below the data for 1992-1993 and 1999, although in 2006 the population reached the 2002 level.